A group of South African astronomers has helped discover one of the brightest novas ever observed. A nova is an astronomical event when a star suddenly shines very brightly then fades again over a few months. It results from a dead star (a "white dwarf") pulling material from a close companion star onto its surface. The pressure builds up until there is an eruption so enormous‚ it is equivalent to a million hydrogen bombs going off. Now‚ a new study led by Elias Aydi at the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAOO) and the University of Cape Town is about to be published‚ detailing the optical observations that were made from South African soil. They come from the Southern African Large Telescope, which is based in "big-sky country" in Sutherland in the Northern Cape. According to Dr Daniel Cunnama‚ the outreach astronomer at the SAAO‚ the beauty of a nova is from the "brightness of the star increasing dramatically and sometimes appearing as a new naked-eye star in the night sky...

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